Welcome to the latest Squire Fan Club newsletter where we say goodbye to the summer, hello to September, and play the unheard mono mix of September Gurls!
Squire's follow up album to Get Smart, titled September Gurls, became an homage to the sound of powerpop and a vital connection to fans beyond the UK. Whereas Squire were identified as a mod band in the UK, further afield the music appealed not only to mod scenes but through college radio, reviews and record stores to an audience who simply loved the sound of the music! Kings Road and Carnaby Street suggested unseen exotic locations, not necessarily referencing mod iconography. Singles like ‘Girl On A Train' through to the Get Smart tracks stood apart from a sea of synth based pop from bands such as Culture Club, Wham et al, and we were getting keen support from DJs such as Rodney Bingenheimer on KROQ in Pasadena, who loved the 60s references and charm of the British sound and accents!
We found we connected to similar independantly spirited bands in the US, while enjoying the advantage of being part of a second British Invasion, where bands from UK found themselves in favour by having a sound and look that differed from corporate American rock bands, highlighted by the proliferation of quirky creative UK pop videos on the new MTV channel.
The original idea behind the September Gurls album was to record an album of singles. Squire were a ‘singles band’ with 7-inch releases that hadn’t appeared on albums, in the same fashion that The Beatles split their singles/album releases. We also imagined releasing stereo and mono versions of the same recordings, to contrast between the wider 1980s production style, and the sound of singles on the radio. UK studios always checked the songs picked as singles though a single small speaker to mimic the sound of mono transistor radio playback.
BBC Radio One and TV shows were key promotional avenues for pop music and mono compatibility was an important part of the mixing ethos. We extended that to cut an actual mono mix of the song, in the same way The Beatles had done! So where their records were originally recorded and mixed in mono, and remixed in stereo, we planned to do the same!
We were also imagining a heavier sound that we could take on stage, and had already considered adding a second guitarist so we could expand the sound to include solos and syncopated guitar rhythms. Indeed, we toured the album as a four piece line up.
While exploring this new guitar heavy ‘powerpop’ approach to contrast with the effervescent Get Smart musicality, we came across many examples of stunning songwriting by bands that remained hidden from view and had missed out on commercial success, mostly unknown outside their own country or time. Much like Squire! So the idea of the album was extended to make it a half and half originals and ‘covers’ album, by recording versions of a few of these amazing songs that we hoped we could do justice.
The song ‘September Gurls’ exemplified this sound. Written by Alex Chilton and recorded by Big Star on their 1974 Radio City Album, the LP was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis and released on the Ardent label, but sold less than 500 copies in the UK on import when first released, a victim of bad distribution, promotion and timing.
It was during an evening of record listening to examples of fantastic unheard tracks that had fallen through the cracks of pop music, that Big Stars ‘September Gurls’ hit the air and you may imagine how astounding it was to hear the track for the first time, and to realise that very few people had even heard the song. The track became the catalyst to find other ‘knock you flat’ examples of guitar pop that could inspire the new approach for the next album.
Of course there are probably thousands of examples of undiscovered killer songs, given the vagaries of the record industry, but we found enough that night to fill a C90 cassette and set about learning and rehearsing the tracks to understand if we could do the songs justice and if they fit within the Squire sound, while the process of deconstructing and rearranging the songs gave us an understanding of how to approach arranging our material for the new sound, and the idea of the album eventually morphed into a mini album as we hurried to get into the studio and release a record.
The album was recorded at Old Barn Recorders Studio in Croydon in early 1984. The studio was owned by Mathew Fisher of Procul Harum, the keyboardist famous for composing and playing the opening bars of their 1967 hit 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale'.
We had been tipped off about the studio by Claes Johansen from Danish band Route 66. He had interviewed Squire during the Get Smart sessions, and had visited us while recording in the studio. We remained close friends, and he later tracked down Mathew Fisher and arranged for him to produce his band and play Hammond on their record (he later wrote an excellent biography of Procul Harum). Claes also asked me to add harmonies to some of their tracks.
The occasion allowed me to visit the studio and meet Matthew and the engineer and experience a couple of days working there, and it was the perfect venue for our new record. Claes was in the studio during the Squire tracking sessions and in contrast to the extended recording sessions for Get Smart, September Gurls was finished within a week. While the familiar stereo version was released, and extended in 2019 to include the original tracks that were rehearsed but left off the album, the mono version of the album stayed in the box. - until now!
We hope you enjoy the mono mix of September Gurls! Everything is focused in the centre of the soundscape. So whereas the stereo amplifies the drum echo, the guitar solo appears on the right speaker and the guitars and vocal harmonies are counterpoised between the two channels, the mono is sculpted like a 1960s record with all your favourite bits jumping out in turn! Back to Mono!
All the Best from Squire!